The Gophers knew their Outback Bowl victory against Auburn would catapult them in the national rankings. Early Tuesday morning, Minnesota found out how much: The Gophers landed in the No. 10 spot in the college football season’s final Associated Press poll.
It marked the Gophers’ highest finish since they were No. 10 in 1962. They hadn’t finished anywhere in the Top 25 since 2003, when they were No. 20.
“It’s a huge accomplishment for [the players], huge accomplishment for the staff,” coach P.J. Fleck said on WCCO radio Tuesday. “It’s really nice that Minnesota is recognized nationally of what we’re doing and what we’re becoming and what we can be.”
Among Big Ten Conference teams, only No. 3 Ohio State and No. 9 Penn State finished ahead of the Gophers. No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 15 Iowa and No. 18 Michigan also were ranked in the final Top 25.
Fleck gave the credit to his boss.
“There’s a reason why we were Top 10 in the country. There’s a reason why our athletics programs are so good right now, and that’s [athletic director] Mark Coyle,” Fleck said on WCCO radio. “I wouldn’t have come here without Mark Coyle, if he wasn’t the AD, because his vision was exactly what my vision was.”
The Gophers finished the season 11-2 with a school record 3.21 fall semester GPA.
The Gophers peaked in the AP poll this year at No. 7, before taking their first loss, 23-19 at Iowa on Nov. 16. Minnesota sat at No. 16 entering the Outback Bowl and knocked off then-No. 9 Auburn 31-24.
Early expectations for the team for next season run the gamut, at least from Vegas’ perspective.
According to BetOnline.ag, the Gophers have a 100-1 chance to win the College Football Playoff, the same odds as teams such as Nebraska and Kentucky. Meanwhile, this season’s runner-up Clemson — after losing 42-25 to LSU in the CFP national championship game Monday night — leads the way with 9-4 odds. Ohio State (9-2), Michigan (33-1), Penn State (33-1) and Wisconsin (50-1) are fellow Big Ten teams with better chances.
The Gophers will return nine of 11 offensive starters but only four of 11 on defense. One of those returnees, quarterback Tanner Morgan, has better odds than his team in an individual category. BetOnline.ag gives Morgan 10-1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy in his junior season. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is first with 7-2 odds.